Native Village 
Youth and Education News

October, 2013

The 1491 Census: Native Creates Tribal Nations Map of Turtle Island
Condensed by Native Village

It took 14 years and thousands of hours, but Aaron Carapella finally completed a map of Turtle Island in 1490. The map shows the locations of almost 600 Native nations and gives their indigenous names -- not the names given by Europeans.

Aaron is part Aniyunwiyah (Cherokee). Having grown up in the city, he’s always sought more knowledge of Native history and culture.

“I would attend pow wows and scour through the items vendors had for sale," he says. "From time to time I would see maps of the traditional territories of our tribes, but thought they looked incomplete, and the names mostly inaccurate. I filed away the idea of one day creating a more authentic-looking one myself.

“Years went by as I looked from time to time for a better map. One day I decided, ‘It’s time to make a REAL map of Native America, as WE see it.’ It started with four poster boards and a rough pencil drawing of the United States. Over the next 14 years I would create the Tribal Nations Map.”

The process of collecting the real tribal names was a tedious one. He studied books, and called tribes individually.

“Some tribes, once contacted, wouldn’t know that information,” he said. But the tribes eventually found people who could tell Aaron what he needed to know.

“There were tribes I had never even heard of,” he said. “It blew me away, the diversity. Florida alone had 35 to 40 different tribes.”

Carapella thinks this is the first map of its kind.

“You can get maps of what our reservations look like now,” he said. “And you can get maps that have, like, the 50 main tribes. But I was interested in what our land really looked like circa 1490, before Columbus got here.”

The typeface on the map varies in size to reflect the amount of land and population of each tribe. It also shows historical images of Natives and their dwellings.

Carapella was 19 years old when he began his project. Now age 33, he feels this is his way of giving back to his Native community. He also hopes to educate the public about Native people.

“In general ... Americans are very ignorant about Native American history," he said. " ... the only time they deal with Native history or reality is when tribes have enough money to fight back against injustice happening to them. In my small way, making this map is to reinforce the true history of the injustice and the genocide that occurred.”

Maps are available at Profits will go to future map projects, including in-depth looks at tribes in California and Washington, and a map of the First Nations of Canada


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